“We are starting over,” said Gartrell, whose team lost 18 starters. “We got a lot of work to do but we’re extremely excited about this season. Our work is cut out for us but we are looking forward to this season and what it has to offer.”
Due to the GHSA realignment, Stephenson’s schedule will only offer five region games this year as opposed to nine last season. As a result, the Jaguars will not be able to avenge narrow losses to Tucker and Mays.
But the Jaguars will have to face Dunwoody, Miller Grove, Southwest DeKalb and M.L. King, while welcoming Druid Hills to Region 6-AAAAA competition.
“Our goal is to win a state championship like everybody else,” said Gartrell, who is entering his 19th season as coach. “Everybody is 0-0 and hopes to get off to a start that will give them an advantage to make the playoffs and make a good run.”
“Coach has been telling us to be mentally strong,” senior defensive end Chauncey Rivers said. “A lot of people say we just got athletes so we got to be physical and play hard.”
Rivers, who has verbally committed to attend Georgia, had an impressive junior season, collecting 100 tackles (28 for loss) and 15 sacks. He is joined by linebacker Dareus Brown and Javon Barnes, who have both been offered Division I scholarships as well.
On offense, DeWann Ford and Giovonni Weekley will likely share the load at quarterback once again and locate talented targets DJ Neal, Isaiah Zuber and Tucker transfer NeKyle Lundie, who have all verbally committed to South Carolina, Kansas State and Nebraska, respectively.
“Coach has been telling us to stay focused and stay humble,” Neal said. “He just wants us to be prepared to run through everybody nonstop. We got to send a message out quick the first three games. That is what he keeps telling us also.”